Their Own Words Dunning Golf

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Editors Note: In 2001, Ralph Dunning founded Dunning Golf with the mission of making superior performance apparel for the sport of golf. His passion for the game, along with his understanding of player specific needs, keep Dunning Golf on the leading edge of the golf industry. Ralph Dunning has a 15-year background in performance apparel design and has assembled technical collections for the running, cycling and triathlon industries. Design clients include: Saucony, Reebok, Cervelo Cycles and GT Bicycles along with founding the Rip n Hammer triathlon and cycling brand.
 
Ralph Dunnings athletic experience includes three finished Ironman Triathlons and three marathons, including qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

 
A Conversation with Ralph Dunning, Founder, Dunning Golf
 
Casey/Q:
Ralph, how did this all start for you?
 
Ralph/A:
I had a background in the triathlon and running and cycling industries. From 1992 to about 2003 I was involved in a company called R&H which stood for Rip and Hammer. We were one of the premium triathlon brands in the sport and we used proprietary technology to make sure our fabric was going to do what it was supposed to do.
 
Casey/Q:
Other than the obvious, what makes the special fabric needs for triathlon so demanding?
 
Ralph/A:
Guys that are racing in triathlon - that are racing anywhere from two hours to 17 hours - youve got a lot of demands that are going to be required when youre racing in terms of moisture management and breath-ability. However, its not just the race event itself. People that are involved in running and cycling, its a big part of their life. There is also training. Some of these guys are training up to 20 hours a week. Over time, serious competitors in triathlon have become educated on how fabrics are supposed to work to optimize the athletes performance. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from my own personal experience in these various sports.
 
Casey/Q:
In addition to manufacturing and distributing your own brand, Rip n Hammer, you manufactured for other name brands as well.
 
Ralph/A:
Thats right. We were in that business for quite a while. We had the Rip n Hammer brand and then I started to do a lot of design work for some of the bigger brands like Saucony and Reebok. They were looking to put together highly technical collections and that involved product sourcing and fabric development; something we were very good at. Also, the aesthetic designthe whole packagethats what we provided.
 
Casey/Q:
What got you involved in golf?
 
Ralph/A:
In 2000, my knees went out and I couldnt compete in my regular sports. So, I started to play a lot of golf. I was already a big fan of the game, but, when I started to play a lot it hooked me big time. It got deep in to my blood, very quickly.
 
Casey/Q:
And as far as Dunning Golf, what brought that about?
 
Ralph/A:
I bought golf shirts from a brand that I had always thought of as a very authentic, traditional golf brand. I thought they looked like golf shirts should look and I was wearing their stuff all the time to play golf in. But, the more I played, and the more I played in different weather conditions, the more I thought this doesnt make a whole lot of sense.
 
Casey/Q:
In what way?
 
Ralph/A:
Well, in a traditional cotton shirt, when it was really hot, I would get drenched in my own sweat and that would be uncomfortable. Also, I noticed that the shirts didnt fit me all that well. Some did, some didntthere didnt seem to be any consistency to the fit. They just werent that good to play in. But the thing that really got my attention was when I bought a really expensive waterproof golf jacket and tried to play in that. The way it was designed made absolutely no sense to me. Having all the experience I had in technical fabrics and design from triathlon, running and cyclingwell, a light went off in my head and I just kind of said, I can design better apparel for golf than is currently being designed.
 
Casey/Q:
Give me an example of how your experience in your former sports helped create innovation for you in golf.
 
Ralph/A:
Lets take outerwear. When you first start out running or riding in the morning you are going to be pretty cold. Once you start to generate some body heat, breath-ability becomes a huge issue because you start to sweat. We also know from our experience that how that sweat is handled, moisture management, has tangible consequences to an athletes performance. The sports may be very different, however, the human conditionbeing hot or cold, sweating or chilling down, being wetthose conditions are universal to all sports including golf.
 
Casey/Q:
You had also mentioned that the traditional shirts you were buying were not fitting you well.
 
Ralph/A:
Thats right. Fit is another area I felt we could greatly improve on. The golf swing requires tremendous freedom of movement. Its also a game where style and etiquette are important. I was wearing shirts that kept coming un-tucked. I didnt like that and thought I could do better. But mainly, it was how the fabric was supposed to perform. It was taking the technologies from cycling and running outerwear and applying some of those technologies to golf in a meaningful way. Breath-ability had to mean something. Waterproof had to be waterproof, but with smart design. Shirts should fit properly and offer moisture management. All this could and should add up to better playability.
 
Casey/Q:
When did you have this epiphany?
 
Ralph/A:
This triggered in my mind in 2000that theres an opportunity in the golf business to really take pure performance from other highly demanding sports and apply these technologies to golf apparel. To take what I knew from my other sports and make that work for golfI believed I could do this.
 
Casey/Q:
Walk us through the entrepreneurs footstepsfrom I think I can to I did.
 
Ralph/A:
I came up with a few designs ' shirts and outerwear ' that took advantage of sophisticated technology fabrics that I had worked with in cycling and triathlon. And I brought my own creative eye to the styling of the apparel; minding the traditional nature of golf but looking to be modern. I had samples made, and when I felt like I had what I wanted, I had a meeting with Stephen Bevis who owns Golf Town. This was about a year after I started, around 2001.
 
Casey/Q:
I dont think we have Golf Town in the United States.
 
Ralph/A:
No, I dont think you do. Its like your Golfsmith or Golf Galaxy. Golf Town is a chain of big box stores but they really have a pro shop feel to them. They do a great job of merchandising golf for an off-course retailer. And Stephen Bevis is well known and respected as a golf retailer in Canada. Stephen looked at our product and thought it was revolutionary. He told me, flat out, he thought our thinking represented the future wave of golf apparel. We were virtually unknown, and yet, he put us in all of his stores and had phenomenal sell through. Thats how it started for us. Thats how we got on the map.
 
Casey/Q:
All of your design and manufacturing work is done in Canada, is that right?
 
Ralph/A:
Thats correct. We believe that it is really important to design, engineer and manufacture all of our own fabrics in factory environments that we can control hands on, on a day to day basis. So we work with domestic mills in Canada where its more practical for us to be as hands on as we want to be. We say to the mill, here are all the technical features were looking for and heres all of the golf specific features that we want to see in a shirt, for example. You make it and well be around the factory frequently monitoring to make sure the process is going exactly as we expect.
 
Casey/Q:
Are there any disadvantages to that? I mean, apparel manufacturing is largely outsourced to countries where labor costs are considerably less.
 
Ralph/A:
There are some different costing challenges, however, I dont find there to be disadvantages. Quite to the contrary, I think there are almost all advantages. We use ISO 9001 manufactures here in Toronto. This is the same standard that you would see used in the automotive industry or companies that are making medical equipment. For us, it basically means that when fabric arrives to our mill we can walk in and the inspection process is very hands on. We can inspect the fabric to make sure its to spec and then all the way through the manufacturing process we can see what is going on. If you come up here and visit, Ill take you over to the factory and you can see exactly from start to finish how the product is made. In my mind, its a great insurance policy. Were quite certain that the products are going to be to spec and that theres not going to be really any manufacturing defects because we are able to be much more hands on in how the whole process works.
 
Casey/Q:
So, you experienced quick success in Golf Town, and things took off from there?
 
Ralph/A:
In a very short window, in Canada, through Golf Town, people really started to talk about the brand and they were saying this is great product; the quality is great. The customers were buying one shirt and going back and buying four other colors. Thats pretty good stuff when youre just starting out like we were. The following year, we took that story and our product line to the Ontario PGA Show and set up a small 10x10 booth. We showed this technical outerwear and this technical fabric in shirts to people and one after another they told us we had a homerun. Mike Weirs agent came over and said wow, this outerwear really makes a lot of sense to me and before we knew it, Mike Weir was wearing our product.
 
Casey/Q:
Thats not a bad little show story.
 
Ralph/A:
Not bad at all. Weir wore our stuff for about a year and a half until he started his own line. But it gave us fantastic credibility and we had authenticity right out of the gate. We were able to take that story back out to the market and people said, that makes sense. Youve already got TOUR acceptance from a major figure in Canada. The pro shops started to embrace what we were doing and then all of a sudden we had all of the assistant pros and head pros wearing our product. They put it in to their stores and shops and within a couple of years we had a pretty good buzz going.
 
Casey/Q:
Do you feel like you were ahead of the curve on technical fabrics?
 
Ralph/A:
Well, as youve seen in the last couple of years, the whole industry has started to recognize the importance of performance in apparel. So now, everybody is kind of talking about that game. But, I do take a lot of pride in being on the forefront of recognizing a need for and finding an application for technology fabrics in golf.
 
Casey/Q:
To pick up on that Mike Weir story, you have put together a nice PGA TOUR endorsement staff.
 
John Senden
Dunning's John Senden broke through with a win in this year's John Deere Classic.
Ralph/A:
Yes, this past year, we signed a number of TOUR professionals including Zach Johnson, John Senden, Bob Estes, Craig Barlow, and Brian Gay. Its wonderful, of course, that John Senden broke through and won on the PGA TOUR not long ago, the John Deere Classic.
 
Casey/Q:
I know from speaking with other OEMs, these guys are the toughest critics of the equipment they play.
 
Ralph/A:
You couldnt be more right. But, we had a lot of confidence from our experience with Mike Weir. And while Mike has gone on to wear his own stuff, we knew from our experience with him that he didnt wear our stuff for a year and a half for any other reason than that he believed in it and he believed it helped him play better golf. So we were comfortable taking our product out on TOUR for the guys to look at and try.
 
Casey/Q:
Good results?
 
Ralph/A:
Staggeringly good. When the guys started playing in our product, they couldnt believe the difference the technology was making. Especially in widely varying climate conditions. They really noticed the differences we told them they were going to notice. So our credibility continued to gain traction. And you are one hundred percent correct with what you said before; they are THE toughest group of people to please. But, when these guys started to tell us they were thinking of our apparel as the 15th club in their bag, that created a heck of a buzz for us.
 
Casey/Q:
Thats not an uncommon storyhow products get the break in exposure that then translates to retail sell through. Im not saying its easy, but, it seems to be the road experienced by many golf entrepreneurs who find success.
 
Ralph/A:
I can vouch for that. I mean, we were lucky with our initial success at Golf Town, but, the break with Weir and then the acceptance and success we have found on the PGA TOUR has created a huge buzz and really changed the way that the brand is perceived. Our brand was always designed to be a real players' performance brand. Yes, it looks good. But, it was always meant to perform at the most demanding level, under the most demanding conditions. The success on TOUR has put its stamp of approval on that story and has allowed us to proceed as a premium performance golf brand.
 
Casey/Q:
People are always interested in what kind of feedback the OEMs get from the best players in the world and how that translates in to the decisions you make moving forward with design. Walk us through how you work with the TOUR players.
 
Ralph/A:
With the TOUR guys, we custom fit every single player in to all of their products. We travel down to the U.S. at the start of the professional golf season to work with them. If they want a certain body length or sleeve length or chest measurement, or whatever theyre looking for. We create a file based on each players own specific pattern. The TOUR guys, they just think that that is incredible, again, because its being positioned as part of their equipment. We saw it with John Senden when he won the John Deere. The weather was 95 degrees and you could see him on TV; his shirt was just bone dry and the same with Bob Estes in Houstonsame sort of idea. So, this has kind of got us to where we are now.
 
Casey/Q:
There is still a large market for traditional cotton. Now that you have a known brand name, are you tempted to expand in to traditional apparel?
 
Ralph/A:
In a word, no. We launched our line in late 2000 and weve had retailers here say you were the first company that exclusively had a performance fabric line. Weve never touched in to the world of cotton and mercerized or any of that stuff. Right out of the gate we were only performance. I think we were probably the first company that had exclusively performance products, but there were other companies that were offering some performance pieces in a much smaller offering than what they are doing now.
 
Casey/Q:
You mentioned the Senden win. That cant hurt things, can it?
 
Ralph/A:
It certainly cant hurt. And youve got a guy in Senden who is very methodical about everything that he does and hes very particular about his equipment and the way he wants his clothes to fit. When we got him last year we were really happy to have him on board. Hes such a great guy. The way he played that weekend at the Deere was just amazing and the impact that had on our brand with relation to retail sell through was fantastic.
 
Zach Johnson
Dunning's Zach Johnson is a member of the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Casey/Q:
Youd have to say Zach Johnson is absolutely due. That guy can flat out play.
 
Ralph/A:
Hes a phenomenal player with a great golf swing. But again, just a really great guywhen you watch the way he interacts with fans and stuff like that, hes just a really solid guy. You can tell hes a real superstar in the making. Hes covered all aspects of his game and then just how he conducts himself as a golf professional. Hes a very authentic players player and thats something that we really look forwe want the real deal out there. There are plenty of opportunities to work with different players, but, we want really authentic players that have good synergy with what were trying to do as a golf company.
 
Casey/Q:
Do you incorporate feedback from your TOUR pros in to designs that they wear, or, do you bring them a finished line and then they give you their personal specs?
 
Ralph/A:
In terms of fit, we give them exactly what they want. In terms of product feedback, thats where we work really closely with the guys on TOUR because, as you know, what guys are using and wearing on TOUR people pay unbelievably close attention to. For example, we were doing a long sleeve compression mock neck and John Senden said he loved the fabric, but, asked if we could develop something that has a golf specific fit so its not too tight. A lot of the compression stuff that is available is coming from other sports. What that means, when its applied to golf, is it can be too restrictive. So when we developed a compression program it comes from exactly from what those guys are telling us. They dont want it to be too tight in their lats, they want to have enough movement in the shoulders, it cant be too short so its coming un-tucked out of their pants, etc. When you talk to these guys on a regular basis thats the kind of feedback that youre going get.
 
Casey/Q:
Showcasing the game of golf at the highest level, as the PGA TOUR players do, means looking their best as well as playing their best.
 
Ralph/A:
We really believe that and I know most of the guys out there believe that. Body length on a shirt, for example, the amount of players that we talk to that say, Im sick and tired of my shirt coming un-tucked. Well, we added an extra two to three inches on our shirts because of feedback that we were getting from these TOUR guys. They want that shirt to fit down the back of their pants flush so that when theyre taking a golf swing theyre not going to pull the shirt out; that would look bad. All the fit aspects, particularly with what were doing in outerwear now for 07, our program for 07, I mean, thats really coming from working directly with the guys on TOUR.
 
Casey/Q:
What do they tell you about outerwear needs?
 
Ralph/A:
They all say the same thing; I dont want unnecessary features on my garment. Fortunately for us, thats something that we have believed in from day one. We didnt put big storm flats and storm card pockets and big huge waist bands and cuffs and all these things that people are paying extra money for. The TOUR guys said we want light weight, breath-ability has to be there, playability has to be there.
 
Casey/Q:
How does that translate in to your designs?
 
Ralph/A:
We developed a four way stretch fabric that when you put it on you dont feel like you have it on. With our background in running and cycling, were able to test extensively for waterproofing and breath-ability. Our stuff is top-notch in that regard. Also, the guys asked for zero noise. They dont want to have to take off a waterproof piece to hit a golf shot because the garment makes too much noise. So our stuff is really quiet.
 
Casey/Q:
Do you get feedback from people other than PGA TOUR players?
 
Ralph/A:
We do get feedback from other than just the TOUR guys. It comes from assistant pros and head pros and good amateur players and also everyday consumer feedback. One of our best features came as a result of consumer feedback. We asked people what was the biggest complaint they had with outerwear; a rain suit for golf. They told us that when they carry their golf bag they were getting soaking wet inside. So, we put a two-ply liner down the shoulders of our half-sleeves and suits so that when youre carrying your golf bag youve got double the protection. Yet, theres no hindrance in your golf swing. When we demonstrate this feature to guys who like to carry their clubs, they just think thats the most brilliant thing theyve ever seen. So, that just comes from talking to people and getting feedback from all the sources we can. If we want to be a pure authentic golf company, we have to live, eat and breathe and absolutely love this gamethat means getting feedback from people whether its positive or negative.
 
Casey/Q:
Well, here is my shot at a little negative. Whats up with the weight of golf pants? Dont apparel companies realize that most of the pants on the market are way too thick and heavy? No air gets through. If I want to be able to wear pants at a nice club on a hot day, Im looking for the lightest weight pant I can find. And Ill tell you, as hard as Ive looked; there arent many choices out there.
 
Ralph/A:
I would agree. Companies could pay more attention to pant weight. But, you know, there is a trade-offand thats durability. The lighter the weight, its hard to keep the pant looking good through numerous cleanings.
 
Casey/Q:
Let me tell you. When youre playing golf in Florida and its 97 degrees and 90 percent humidity, youre not thinking about cleaning and durability. Youre thinking about survival. Id buy pants with holes in them if they were available. Anything to get some air flow.
 
Ralph/A:
Well, see, now youre playing right in to my strength. You need to try technical fabric garments like ours. The biggest problem in playing in cotton fabrics, no matter the weight, particularly living in Florida, youre going to be struggling. Lets say youre on the range, for example, and youre hitting balls. By the time you get to the first tee your shirt is drenched and your pants are drenched. The shirt is stuck to your shoulders, its stuck to your body, the back of your pants are drenched; youre basically a mess. If youll try a high quality technical fabric product, like ours, that wont happen. Look at John Senden on TV at the Deere. He looked cool as a cucumber out there. And it was a sweltering hot day.
 
Casey/Q:
But a lot of golfers are traditionalists. They like the feel and look of cotton.
 
Ralph/A:
Well, this is where I feel were a little different. You look at a lot of companies who are using performance fabrics and theyre so synthetic feeling and looking, they dont feel like cotton at all. The first fabric that we developed for a shirt was our FX Pique fabric. When we engineered it, we said, OK, we want it to look and feel like a traditional cotton fabric. So, its got the same Pique weave on it but the difference is on the inside. It has a brushed facing that feels like cotton. Against your skin, its very soft, but, youre going to get better moisture transfer than cotton because of the technical properties of the fabric.
 
Casey/Q:
What about the weight of the material you usesay in shirts?
 
Ralph/A:
We use 170 grams in our standard tops. A lot of guys, when they go to a technical fabric, some of the fabrics are so light that when they put them on they just feel too sensitive wearing them. Theyre thinking, do I look chubby in this shirt, or, is it too light, can people see through itstuff like that. So, the weight of the fabric is very important and we run a few different weights. If you like a very lightweight cotton shirt, we have a technical fabric called InterFace Channel. Its extremely light but still has performance features built in. Weve put ventilation throughout the entire garment. Even if youre playing in 100 degrees, youre going to get breath-ability and moisture management, but, youre also going to get airflow. So, I can guarantee you if you played in one of our shirts and then you went back to playing your cotton shirt you would say, 'I cannot play in that cotton shirt again.'
 
Casey/Q:
Lets say for the sake of argument, Im a very stubborn consumer.
 
Ralph/A:
OKnothing wrong with that. But heres my take. Its the same thing that happened in the running market and cycling market back in the late 80s and 90s. Guys were running and cycling in cotton t-shirts, they were drenched, they would get cold and stiff after they cooled downit wasnt good. Then technical fabrics entered the arena. I can guarantee you, if you go to a race now or see an event, youll never see a guy wearing cotton anymore. And we believe that will happen in golf. Golf is a little slower to move because it is such a tradition oriented game. Thats why it is very important to come up with fabrics that dont feel synthetic; they must feel great on but youre going to get a performance benefit from it.
 
Casey/Q:
You sound very convincing, I must say.
 
Ralph/A:
I sound so convincing because I know Im right. Listen, lets say youre warming up in our products and youre wearing a good technical fabric shirt and then youre wearing a compression, moisture management underwear system with our short or our pant. You go out and play in that, youre going to come off the courseI dont care if its 100 degrees or 80 degreesyoure going to come off that course and youre going to be absolutely bone dry. And, you will not go back to playing in cotton. Theres just no way. The advantages of playing in our technical fabric performance products are just night and day from playing in traditional cotton. And thats why youre seeing such a shift in what pro shops are carrying, because, once a guy plays in it, they come back and fill their whole locker with itwith performance product.
 
Casey/Q:
Is the InterFace Pro-Lite the single lightest fabric that you offer?
 
Ralph/A:
That was our lightest fabric. We put it on the market for a seasonand this comes back to where I think were different from other companies. The feedback we got was that it was too light so guys were too sensitive wearing it. Carrying golf bags was problematic because the material was so light it was snagging. And even though the fabric was great for playing in very hot weather, we found it was too sensitive, too light, and there was an aesthetic issueso we pulled that particular material off the market. We went back and re-engineered the fabric to a tighter weave and we added the channel feature. The fabric is still very lightweight, but you also have built in channels and ventilation all through the garment and with just enough weight to be durable while carrying a bag and not so light that guys are sensitive to it.
 
Casey/Q:
Body mapping is something that is used extensively in cycling garments, right? Is that applicable to golf?
 
Ralph/A:
Some golf companies are talking about using body mapping which, youre right, has been used in cycling for the last ten years or so. It makes a lot of sense if youre riding a bike or running, where youre moving quickly through the air and you can benefit from that airflow. But, when youre playing golf, in my opinion, body mapping doesnt make a whole lot of sense. Its better to have ventilation throughout the entire garment so you can catch what breeze or airflow there is. So, thats what we do. We take a lightweight technical fabric and then we incorporate ventilation throughout the entire garment so youre going to get airflow all over it, not just in certain areas.
 
Casey/Q:
Lets go through the product line itself.
 
Ralph/A:
Our FX Pique is the fabric we wanted to look like a traditional classic cotton pique shirt that guys have been wearing for the last ten or 20 years. It has that classic cotton look to it but its made out of a performance fabric. It has the pique weave on the outside with a brushed inside facing so it feels just like cotton against your skin. Yet, it performs incredibly well in warm weather.
 
Casey/Q:
Your Coolmax Channelwe talked about that already.
 
Ralph/A:
Yup.
 
Casey/Q:
Field Sensor?
 
Ralph/A:
Field Sensor is a fabric we worked with in the cycling industry for years and it was one of the performance fabrics that we had used in triathlon where weve got guys who were racing ten hours. Field Sensor is a Japanese fabric and its just got a very nice hand to it, but, its not pique; so its aesthetically different from FX Piquebut the performance on it is going to be similar.
 
Casey/Q:
OK, InterFace Thermal?
 
Ralph/A:
InterFace Thermal is one of the best fabrics in our line. The problem you see in cooler weather, and this is sort of similar to outerwear, it gets cold and you put on a cotton shirt and maybe a fleece piece and a rain or wind jacket and then you cant even swing your golf club. There are too many layers. But then when you start playing and get warm, you have to take all that stuff off. Youre putting it on, taking it offits a pain. If the player gets hot and their shirt gets soaked and then as time goes on they get cold again, they cool down and their muscles tighten all up and they wonder why they cant hit the ball. So, our thermal program was designed to wear one or two layers at the most where you had something that was a little bit heavier against your skin but had a lot of stretch to it. You could go out and play in cold weather, very cold weather, and all you need to wear is one piece because youre going to get wind protection, youre going to get breath-ability and youre going to get moisture management. If youre a guy who likes to play in cold weather and still wants to be able to swing a golf club properly, thats what the InterFace Thermal fabric is designed for.
 
Casey/Q:
That certainly sounds like it comes directly from your running and cycling experience.
 
Ralph/A:
Most definitely. Guys would go running in the morning when it was freezing and all of a sudden they would start to sweat and then they were very concerned about being cold on the way back on their run. This fabric actually keeps you very warm in cold weather and it also keeps you dry. Its really designed for early spring and fall weather play. All our guys that went over to the British Open, they had all the Interface Thermal products.
 
Casey/Q:
How about Pro Compression?
 
Ralph/A:
As you see from what is going on in hockey and baseball and football, compression fabric is designed to keep your muscles warm so that there is less chance for injuries. Weve incorporated compression in to an underwear piece because groin injuries are a problem with guys playing golf. Also, you want moisture management so that your pants arent soaked when youre playing. So, compression is designed to keep you cool and dry or warm and dry depending on the weather conditions. It also keeps your muscles warm so that there is less chance for injury. The difference with our compression stuff is the cut and pressure. It is snug against your skin and your muscles but its not like a sausage fit like you would see from some companies that are taking fits directly from football and hockey and applying that to golf. Our compression is designed exclusively for playing golf and to allow a proper full golf swing.
 
Dunning Interface FX Pique Polo
Dunning's InterFace FX Pique Polo.
Casey/Q:
The InterFace Lycra
 
Ralph/A:
InterFace Lycra was designed for people that want a lot of stretch in their garments so that they feel like they have even more range of motion. It feels like the same mechanical stretch that you have in FX Pique, but theres actual Lycra built in to the fabric. Some people just like a stretchy feeling garment because they feel like they have more playability that way. Lycra technology comes from cycling and runningits all about freedom of movement.
 
Casey/Q:
What about your pants and shorts?
 
Ralph/A:
We have a CoolMax pant and short that has stretch in it and again, its a golf specific cut. Because if you look at most of the shorts out there, some of the companies just take walking shorts and put a golf logo on it. We actually redesigned the short; we said, whats the most important thing in a golf short? When you address the ball you dont want the short to be climbing up your butt. So we cut the rear end of the short in a golf specific fit so that its not too tight around your behind and we put an extra inch in the seat and the waist so that when youre making your swing its not going to be tight and restrictive. It actually stretches. So youre going to get playability and movement but youre also going to get moisture management. When you come off the course youre whole body is dry. The fabric technology is just phenomenal and it is also a proper fitting garment for golf.
 
Casey/Q:
The Hydro Laminate Pro Stretch?
 
Ralph/A:
This is a four-way stretch fabric. Its 20,000 millimeters of waterproofing so you can get four to six hours of protection. This is the material where the TOUR guys said they want no noise, full playability, full breath-ability and they wanted the lightest fabric they could get. Theres nothing else on the market like it.
 
Casey/Q:
How about styling? Do you have a staff of designers?
 
Ralph/A:
Actually, I do all the design work myself and that just comes from wanting to do it, I guess. I think the biggest problem that Im seeing in golf right now is that a lot of companies are trying to be too radical, for lack of a better word. They want to put stuff out that has a lot of cut and sew detail on it. But, you know, one of the things that makes golf such an incredible game ' not just that its so fun to play ' but because there is etiquette involved and you should look a certain way. We look to have some products that have a little bit of edge to them but they are still very respectable in terms of how you should dress on a golf course.
 
Casey/Q:
So we are on the same pagetraditional.
 
Ralph/A:
Oh, were on the same page. You can have traditional styling with technology performance fabrics. Thats exactly what we have. The most important aesthetic that we talk about with our products is we want very clean designs which mean that theres not a lot of unnecessary stuff on them. When people tell me what triggered them to buy the product, many people say they just loved the way it looked and how clean it looks. And thats what we hear all the timethe styling is very clean.
 
Casey/Q:
Where do your styling inspirations come from?
 
Ralph/A:
I pay attention to a lot of different areas in mens fashion. Its obviously very important in this day and age to look closely at Europe and some of the influences over there. Then we look at a lot of designs from other industries; the car industry is a big one, home furnishings, paint companies, etc. I think it is very important to pay attention to a lot of different areas of design and creation to draw inspiration from. That might be a color story or a certain cut and detail pattern. Even for our 07 program, weve done a certain spin on classic golf apparel that incorporates stripes in to it but doing a modern spin on it using a soft collar and color stories that are very contemporary. We want to make sure that the designs are very respectful to golf but not limit ourselves to an age group.
 
Casey/Q:
What is your demographic?
 
Ralph/A:
You know, we have customers that are 17 years old and we have customers that are in their sixties. Theyre open minded and are looking at the product and saying they like the clean styling, it still looks somewhat traditional, but, it looks modern at the same time. Thats really important to what were doing.
 
Casey/Q:
What about your styling options?
 
Ralph/A:
We do polo shirts, of course, we do mocks, we do a zip-neck mock and took that really from our days in running and cycling. The point of having a zipper was, if you got really hot and you needed some ventilation you could undo the zipper and get some airflow in to your body. The reason that we did that for golf, and this gets back to the tradition of the game, if you come off the course and you see a guy with his shirt unbuttoned, it just doesnt look respectful. With the zipper, you can zip it up when you come off the course and youre still going to meet dress code and I think that is very important. We also do some long sleeve stuff for playing in cooler weather as well.
 
Casey/Q:
What do you offer in compression?
 
Ralph/A:
In compression we have a long sleeve mock, a short sleeve t-shirt and then we also do a compression underwear piece in a brief style.
 
Casey/Q:
How about womens golf fashion?
 
Ralph/A:
Were actually taking a break from womens fashion for the 07 line. Heres the biggest thing for me, Casey. If Im sitting down to talk to consumers or TOUR players about mens fashion, I can do it with 100% confidence that I can answer any question they might have and I can come up with inventive and compelling designs and solutions to any challenges they might throw my way. I know I can satisfy the great majority of mens fashion tastes. Truthfully, I cant say that about womens golf fashion. When I sit down with women, say ten in a room, and ask them what theyre looking for in golf apparel, they all say they want it to fit properly. But when you ask what fit means, you literally get ten different answers from each of the ten women.
 
Casey/Q:
Sounds like me and dating.
 
Ralph/A:
You know, I feel your pain. With womens golf fashion, it was all about what looked good for a particular and unique body shape and type. But the word playability never was mentioned. Not one time in the meetings I had with female golfers. So, thats not really us a company. Were about playability first and style as an accompaniment to playability. It seems to me that the womens apparel golf market is all about style first and function or playability is not even an issue. So, the bottom line is, I just cant relate to what women need in golf apparel.
 
Casey/Q:
But, you have to admit its a huge market. Womens golf is actually the only demo in golf that is growing right now.
 
Ralph/A:
I know that, and, youre right. There are tremendous opportunities in womens golf apparel. My strategy is, therefore, to take a break from it for the 07 season, do a lot of research about where the womens market is going and what type of woman golfer might be a buyer for our kind of performance golf apparel and see about re-launching golf apparel for women based on our findings. But right now, the mens side of our business is exploding so fast, especially in the U.S., I have to focus on what I know I can do best and make sure that we can fill all the orders there are to fill and keep the positive momentum going. When we get back in to the womens market, well do it by bringing in a top designer that specializes in womens fashion, who has a great style sense, but also who understands the importance of playability and performance and what were trying to do as a brand in terms of being a leader in technology fabric performance golf apparel.
 
Casey/Q:
Lets talk about sizing. Your TOUR staff, and many TOUR players I know, get custom fitted for clothing. What makes good sizing for the consumer?
 
Ralph/A:
People want a golf specific cut which means they want something they can swing a golf club in. That means first and foremost, the chest measurements have to be pretty accurate. If you talk to a lot of the golf companies and ask them how they develop their fitting criteria, I think a lot of it comes from the old school mentality of big shirts that are going to shrink down because theyre cotton. Then youve got another mind set where stuff is very small and only a minor portion of the golfing community can wear it. Lets face it, most golfers are not built like Tiger Woods. We came up with measurements based on countless hours of research to determine what an average chest size is in each size category.
 
Casey/Q:
Take a large, for example. Thats probably the most widely purchased size.
 
Ralph/A:
OK, a large. What should a large size shirt be? Well, if you ask enough people what they like, and you measure enough people, youre going to take the guesswork out of it and arrive at a basic standard for large that will fit the greatest number of people. Thats what weve done for all our sizes.
 
Casey/Q:
Sleeves are a big issue, arent they?
 
Ralph/A:
Sleeve length and fit is a huge priority for people. Thats why we offer a raglan sleeve and set-in sleeve because some people want their sleeve length to be a little bit shorter. We spent years working on that fit and it takes us a lot of time to get that fit to where were happy with it. In general, we feel confident that across the board for us, style wise and size wise, our apparel is made to accommodate the widest range of different body types for people that really are concerned with getting the best performance and fit possible out of their golf apparel. I cant imagine another company taking more time or making more effort on sizing than we do.
 
Casey/Q:
Cant you just custom fit all of us like you do for your TOUR staff?
 
Ralph/A:
Well, its funny that you mention that. In 07, we are launching a custom fit program so that you can go in to a participating retail store and get yourself completely custom fit. If you want a specific sleeve length or a certain shoulder width or specific body length, we will custom fit the shirt to a player.
 
Casey/Q:
How the heck can you do that?
 
Ralph/A:
We can do it because we control all of our manufacturing right here in Toronto. And we know we can custom fit on an individual basis because we already do that for the TOUR players. So, at a participating store, when we have this up and running, youll be able to work with a fitting specialist for our apparel just like you can get custom fit for a set of irons. The fitter will measure you for sleeve length, body length and a number of other options and we can take that information and cut you one shirt or six shirts. Then that pattern, just like we do for the TOUR players, that pattern stays in our warehouse in our computer files and if you want to order more later, you can do that at any time.
 
Casey/Q:
Ralph, you might have a winner there.
 
Ralph/A:
I knowits great. This is for shirts and it will start in 07 at participating retailers. Now if that doesnt speak to the attention to detail that we believe in, and type of service we are striving to deliver to the avid golfer, I dont know what does. I believe that when we take this custom fit program in to the green grass accounts across Canada and the U.S., offering custom fit shirts for their members, specially made for them, how do you beat that? Its something I am very excited about.
 
Casey/Q:
Speaking of green grass accounts and members, what kind of distribution do you strive for?
 
Ralph/A:
Distribution is very important for us. We dont want to be in big box retail that isnt golf specific. Golf specific big box, like Golf Town, thats OK. We want to be selling to green grass locations that can really tell our story and where and why technical fabrics ' and our technical fabrics in particular ' are different than the rest of the stuff thats out there. Were focused only on golf. Were not taking this Dunning brand in to other sports. This is a golf brand and a golf brand only.
 
Casey/Q:
I noticed on your web site you have something called the Players Club. What is that?
 
Ralph/A:
Later in 07, were launching the Players Club. Its something people can join and then they get access to special make-up products. For example, well be coming out with limited edition polo shirts and technical work out t-shirtsa package of merchandise that is exclusive to people who want to belong to the Dunning Golf Apparel Club. This is really for people that see the brand as a lifestyle brandsomething truly special and unique. These special packages of merchandise will launch, most likely, three times per year.
 
Casey/Q:
OK, youre a man of many words, and I actually like that. But, Ive got a plane to catch, so, sum it up for us.
 
Ralph/A:
First off, were an authentic, pure golf brand that is completely focused on this game we all love and cherish. Personally, I believe it is the best game in the world. It is certainly the most wonderful sport I have ever been involved with and Im coming to that conclusion as a guy who spent a great deal of my life competing at a very high level of several other sports. Theres nothing like golf, Ill tell you that. And that is the mind-set that we try to be true to in our brand. The more we talk to people who are of a like mind-set, the more we confirm to ourselves exactly how important golf is to the people who make it a major part of their lives. Look at The Golf Channel, for goodness sake. Its a channel dedicated totally and completely to golf. Can you say that about any other sport? Golf is a great part of life for those who have been lucky enough to discover it and I hope that this sentiment is reflected in our golf apparel brand, Dunning. What we want to do is design and manufacture apparel that helps your game and makes you look your best. Where youre being respectful to the game and at the same time realizing a benefit from technology that ultimately allows you to play better golf. I think, also very important for us, is to let people know that we have numerous solutions for different climates and weather conditions. You know, it wont always be a perfect day to play golf. Theres going to be extreme heat, theres going to be rain and theres going to be cold. Just ask the pro TOUR players. They have to be prepared to play their best no matter what the conditions are. Well, the consumer should have those same options and we give golfers those options in our line of golf apparel. I also want people to know that the professional golf TOURs are a highly competitive environment. There are giants in the apparel industry ' extremely successful companies ' and in a very short time we have made great inroads to professional golf. I can tell you, the guys we have wearing our apparel wouldnt be wearing it if they didnt believe in what were doing. They can basically wear anything they want. So, that credibility means a lot to me. Lastly, I would say, we really care about what golfers think. And we take their feedback in to serious consideration. I want to know what people think; where weve succeeded and where weve failed. And we will stay fluid enough and humble enough to adjust our lines to the wants and needs of everyday golfers.
 
Casey/Q:
Ralph, its been a pleasure to speak with you.
 
Ralph/A:
Casey, its been great. Thank you. We dont usually get to express our views as fully as this.
 
Casey/Q:
Like you said, were The Golf Channel. Its all about golf.

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